Officers train on ATV trails

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Law enforcement from Aroostook County gathered at the Presque Isle Police Department on Friday, June 15, to take part in a joint training exercise in preparation of this summer’s outdoor recreation season.

According to Sgt. Eric Erickson, of the PIPD, the session focused primarily on the numerous ATV trails in the area.
“With the 4th of July just around the corner and the big ATV event hosted by the Star City ATV Club June 22, 23 and 24, we wanted to hold a training session to prepare officers for the coming months,” said Erickson.
Participants in the day-long session included officers from the PIPD, Limestone Police Department, Caribou Police Department and various other agencies. Following a morning of classroom exercises, officers took to the trails for some on-the-job training.
In a position that often sees the more dangerous side of life, Erickson and the group had an ideal day for a bit of fun on the job.
“When I planned this event, I asked for a day like this,” said Erickson, smiling as he looked up to the sunny, blue sky.
Officers will be actively patrolling area trails throughout the season, watching for underage riders, drivers operating under the influence and other violations. Local police, in cooperation with members of the Maine Warden Service, share the duty of keeping trails safe for all to enjoy.
While there is no set speed limit on area trails, the “Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife 2007 Laws & Rules” booklet states operating an ATV at greater than a reasonable and prudent speed, based on existing trail conditions, is a violation and is considered a Class E crime. And while the use of helmets is not mandatory for adults, anyone 18 or younger, according to the law book, is required to wear protective head gear.
Additional rules apply when operating an ATV. Law books can be obtained at most city and town halls, sporting good stores, police stations and any office of the Maine Warden Service. Data can also be found online at or call the Maine Warden Service office in Ashland at 435-3231.
The PIPD has worked for years to address complaints related to the use of ATVs in the community, joining forces with the local club to help resolve issues of concern.
“The department, along with members of the Star City ATV Club, recognized this problem and joined a partnership to try to reduce these complaints. As a direct result of this partnership, officers started working hand-in-hand with the local club and started patrolling the ATV trails and enforcing many of the ATV laws that were being broken,” stated Chief Naldo Gagnon, of the PIPD, in a letter to the club earlier this year.
Gagnon indicated it wasn’t long after this partnership was formed that, “ATV enthusiasts knew that the violations were being taken seriously and as a result complaints have been drastically reduced over the last couple of years.”
One reason for the reduced number of complaints, stated Gagnon, was the fact the department, “entered into a gentleman’s agreement with the local ATV club that allowed ATV riders that lived within city limits to operate their machines along the side of the roadway to gain access to area trails.”
“This prevented the users from having to load an ATV onto a trailer or back of a truck only to haul it a short distance to unload it at a trail location. Now operators of these machines drive slowly down the side of the road rather than trying to go fast and get to the trail without being spotted by the police,” continued Gagnon, “saving owners valuable time and money as a result.”
In addition, the city allows ATV operators to go from area trails to local businesses – bringing more dollars to area merchants.
“Without this gentleman’s agreement, once ATV riders got into the city, they would have to stop wherever the trails ended and this would not allow them to visit businesses such as local restaurants, stores and gas stations,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon believes the partnership between the city and the club has been a “win-win situation for all involved.”
Other communities are looking into ways to address similar issues. The city of Caribou has been working with their local ATV club to address the problem of getting from one trail to another. Up until this year, there was a gap between trails heading north and south, requiring enthusiasts to have to load their machines and drive them across town, only to have to unload once again to continue south on the trail.
The Presque Isle club takes pride in the trails it maintains and is hoping for a good turnout for festivities this weekend. With many trails in southern Maine and out of state limited to a few miles before riders have to transport machines to the next trail, Aroostook County clubs have the advantage of connecting trail systems that allow riders to travel dozens of miles without ever leaving the trail. It’s not uncommon to begin a ride in the morning and conclude it later in the day, having traveled 100 miles or more in a single trip. And with all the sights the County has to offer, recreational trails serve as a popular tourist attraction.
The PIPD and officers from surrounding communities will be on the trails this weekend, making sure the Ultimate ATV Event hosted by the SCATV Club is a safe and fun experience for all participants.
The club plans include bon fires, a chicken barbecue, poker run, music, food drive for Catholic Charities of Maine and several group rides. Festivities begin on Friday and conclude on Sunday. Rides begin at the Park and Ride along the Aroostook River just north of the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle, with groups heading in various directions, north and south, depending on the day. For more information on the three-day event, visit